Entries Tagged 'Greg Neitzert' ↓

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert believes we should ‘control’ salary data information

Well, I will give Greg credit on one thing, before he made the above statement, he admitted he would probably be criticized for it. Well, here comes your criticism.

During the informational meeting, Neitzert said that the recent compensation study done by the HR department should not have been released to the public ahead of time (before HR could explain it in an informational). Ironically, they haven’t released the full report (about 200 pages). Which IMO makes the presentation even more confusing, as several councilors pointed out. There wasn’t a breakdown of different departments (except that our Police and especially Fire Department are compensated well above other cities our size) and that Directors and Management (non-union) employees were left out of the study (which also confused some councilors). First off, that is because this study is for collective bargaining with the unions, which is the excuse HR Director Bill Da’Toole used for not releasing the full report to the public yet (if you give it to the public and unions at the same time what is the harm?) Secondly, management and director pay is pretty much determined by the mayor, and some goofy formula the HR department comes up with, which in turn makes it really up to the Mayor. That is how Former Mayor Coors Light & Olives was able to give corporate/executive like raises to his directors including ‘spiking’ the Finance Director’s pay by $16K before his retirement. I agree with councilor Stehly, city managers and directors are well compensated in our city compared to other cities.

But back to ‘controlling’ the salary data. First off, as I have had to remind our prestigious city council and past mayor, we own the government, the citizen taxpayer. We pay the wages of city employees for services they provide to US. It’s not the other way around. Talking about city employees salaries in a general sense when it comes to job description and not by name isn’t some top secret affair, especially after we paid $65K for the report. Besides, city employee’s salaries are listed HERE on the city website BY NAME (DOC: 2018-Wages), these are also not a top secret, because once again, we pay those wages.

The HR department should have just released the FULL report yesterday before the presentation, not only to the council, but to the unions, the public and the media, all at the same time. There really isn’t any excuse to ‘control’ salary data, it’s not like this is a Events Center siding report.

TenHaken’s Deputy COS is running for a Republican Committeeman

Deputy COS T.J. Nelson is running in Precinct 309 and City Councilor Greg Neitzert is running in Precinct 317 for Committee people in the Republican Party.

While the waters have already been tested by Erickson and Staggers for councilors as committee people (the ethics commission said it was OK because they are volunteer positions) that question has never been asked about appointed city employees who work for a non-partisan mayor.

While I don’t take issue with T.J. being a proud Republican party member, I wonder if he is testing the waters on this?

If I sat on the Ethics Commission I would probably OK it, but the optics of it don’t look good when your boss has promised to be a non-partisan mayor in the campaign. I’m wondering if T.J. asked an opinion of the Ethics Commission or the city attorney?

What do you think?

It seems T.J.’s name is coming up a lot as a partisan, I think this will hurt Paul in the long run.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert asks Ethics Commission LYFT Question

Greg asked the Ethics Commission yesterday if it would be okay for him to be approved as a LYFT driver as a sitting city councilor. He has been approved already but has no intention of working for them, he did it for research purposes. The EC found it to be no conflict of interest.

Lyft drivers should have just kept mouths shut about cash tips

Sometimes I just shake my head when people shoot themselves in the foot. Of course, not sure who did the shooting? May have been councilor Neitzert who is also a Lyft driver (according to Belfrage). Greg was proposing an ordinance change but probably can’t now since it would be a conflict.

Apparently city ordinance says Lyft or Uber drivers can’t receive cash tips (they do anyway). But now if ordinance changes they will have to claim on taxes. Now, since it is policy NOT to receive tips, though they probably do, they don’t have to claim those tips.

If I was a Lyft driver I would not have said anything about it. Oh well. More government regulation, less money for the worker bee.

Events Center Siding Consultant confirmed it; Flat siding on curved building = BAD

There were two revealing moments yesterday during the Sioux Falls city council informational meeting when council was questioning the siding review consultant.

Councilor Neitzert started asking some pretty (basic) questions and got some very frank answers. What I noticed was when the consultant answered two of these questions, he wasn’t nervous, but VERY confident in his response.

So what were they?

Neitzert asked if the siding was applied to the building according to specifications?

Consultant, “The siding was not installed according to specifications.”

(We have to remember that while MJ Dalsin was the contractor on the siding, they used a subcontractor that Mortenson recommended for the curved portion of the building, and were NOT the direct contractor installing the siding. That contractor is responsible for the buckling siding on the Pinnacle in Lincoln and the botched dome job on the Corn Palace they had to redo).

Neitzert then asked about the photos of the siding being installed, and asked the consultant if he thought it was visible the buckling was occurring during installation.

The consultant confirmed that it was apparent the siding was buckling during installation.

So where does this leave us? Right at the beginning; WHO AUTHORIZED THE FLAT PANELS?!

While councilor Stehly wants to hire outside legal counsel for an opinion about the legality of looking at the draft reports I think the council needs to pressure the mayor publicly for the documentation that has the signoff for the installation.

Let’s be realistic here, it was either the mayor or someone directly below him that authorized the installation, the public isn’t stupid. So please Mike, stop being a chickensh*t and fess up already – you ordered the Code Red.

It’s NO misconception we are getting hosed on the Downtown Parking Ramp

God Bless Him! You can’t ever deny that Councilor Neitzert really digs in his heels when it comes to issues facing our city and does his research. He sent out this press release explaining the 12 misconceptions of the parking ramp debate. While I agree with him on some of these, the problem is that Greg gets so lost in the weeds on the finer details he misses the ‘Big Picture’ and doesn’t answer many key questions, mainly “Why are we subsidizing the building of the Hotel?” AND “Why are we signing a contract with Aaron Hultgren before his OSHA fines and legal problems are settled?”

But let’s take a finer look at what Mr. Neitzert came up with;

Misconception #1: The parking ramp cost has increased

Reality: This is the first time we have a specific project with a detailed design with a concrete number we can be confident in.  All previous estimates were just that – estimates based on theoretical assumptions and ballpark figures for planning purposes only, and many only included construction only costs.  Comparing this final project plan to previous conceptual projects is not appropriate.

While that is true, many want to know why some of these ‘ballpark’ figures were off by over 50%? That is either lazy or incompetent government at it’s worst.

Misconception #2: Tax dollars will be used to fund the project

Reality: The parking division, like our water, sewer, and landfill divisions, is an enterprise fund.  This means it gets 100% of its funding from user fees – in the case of the parking division parking meters, leases on ramps and parking lots, and fines.  Likewise, 100% of its expenditures come from user fees.  No general sales tax or property tax dollars can be used to fund the system.  Your property and sales tax dollars will NOT pay for this ramp.

True, the bonds will be paid for by user fees (and the 2nd penny if the enterprise fund runs low). But the real misconception here is that DT employers are going to be able to just float or eat those additional costs for parking for their employees. Those costs will be passed onto their consumers in higher prices for their products and services. All costs get passed on. It’s the left pocket, right pocket argument, is it a tax or a fee? IMO, any time government charges you for a service, that’s a tax.

Misconception #3: Rates for parking meters and leases of parking will have to be increased to pay for this ramp

Reality: Rates were already adjusted two years ago so that the parking enterprise collects enough revenue to fund operations, repair and maintenance, and capital cost to replace or add new parking ramps.

Greg must have missed the email from the council’s legislative and budget analyst showing that rates will be increased over the next 10 years. Maybe he needs to check his email box.

Misconception #4: The parking division cannot afford the debt service on this ramp

Reality: The parking division has no debt currently.  Stress testing scenarios and a detailed financial analysis have been performed on the system.  Even with a loss of major tenant’s downtown, the parking fund can make the debt service payment, maintain a cash reserve, fund operations, and continue repair and maintenance on existing ramps and parking lots.

If the parking division can handle the debt on their own, why are we using the 2nd Penny as collateral?

Misconception #5: The investors in this project are being kept secret

Reality: The public portion of the ramp is being financed with bonds that will be sold on the open market.  The private portion will be financed by investors and banking institutions that the developer must obtain.  When we enter partnerships with private firms, award bids for major road and sewer projects, or enter into contracts with private entities, we know who the winning firm is.  However, we do not know all of the investors, shareholders, or part-owners in those entities.  This is not something we obtain as a matter of course.  The city does not and will not know who the investors are in the private portion.  The city cannot keep something secret that it doesn’t know itself.

I can partially agree with Greg on this one and I understand his argument to an extent. The difference is 1) we are subsidizing this developer by at least $6 million on this project unlike a road project 2) Of the investors listed (4 guarantors) one of them is contesting $200K in fines from OSHA for the Copper Lounge collapse. I guess I’m more concerned about the liability of Mr. Hultgren than I am of the UNKNOWN investors.

Misconception #6: The City is paying for private development

Reality: The development agreement which runs over 100 pages stipulates in very specific detail who is responsible for what.  The city will construct the ramp, and the private entity will construct their private portion.  The developer is paying a portion of the storm drainage work, which both the ramp and private development will benefit from.  The developer is paying for the incremental share of the cost for the foundation which must be larger to support the hotel on top of the parking ramp.  The city is not paying or subsidizing the private development.

While it may be true that the developer is sharing ‘some’ costs, it is a very big stretch to say they are sharing all of the soft costs, because they are not (that has already been admitted by councilor Neitzert). It’s obvious in the price tag of this project and the number of spaces we are getting that we are paying a much bigger share of the ramp than what we should be. He can call it whatever he wants to, but I call that subsidizing the project.

Misconception #7: We are building a ramp for a private developer

Reality: All of the parking spaces will be publicly owned.  The developer will lease spaces like anyone else – at market rate.  The developer does not get any free or reduced price spaces.  The public will be able to lease or use spaces in this ramp, because they are owned by the city.

Not sure if this has ever been a misconception or even a concern. It’s a given. The concern is we are not getting enough (public) spaces for what we are paying.

Misconception #8: We are building a foundation for a private developer

Reality: The developer is paying for their share of the foundation, specifically the increased cost of the foundation to support the hotel on top of the ramp.

Can we see those numbers broken down? While I think they may be kicking in a portion, I don’t think they are truly sharing 50% of those costs. As I mentioned above, the high price tag for this ramp blatantly shows we are subsidizing either the developer or the construction company, and my money is on the developer.

Misconception #9: The developer is paying $1,041 dollars a month to lease our land

Reality: The development agreement is not a month to month lease and the developer is not obtaining exclusive use of the parcel.  It is a lump-sum payment based on current market value and appraisal for the rights to lease the air above the ramp and the portion of our city property in front of the ramp where the private commercial development will sit.  The appraisal takes several factors into account including the fact that the city is still able to use the parcel to its fullest potential for a parking ramp and the increased cost for the developer to build on top of a structure instead of bare ground.  The city will receive 1 million dollars in three portions before, during, and upon completion of the private development.  This lump sum payment takes into account the cost of the increased foundation that must be built to support the hotel and the fair market value of the air rights and partial use of the parcel in front of the parking ramp.

If you do the math, the lease payment does come to $1,041 per month. But that is neither here nor there when you look at the bigger deal. This is the first time the city has gone into a lease agreement like this of a one-time payment for 80 years. Not only is it unusual and poorly negotiated by the city, by allowing this kind of lease to be setup we are setting a precedent for other private businesses that want to lease from the city. I can here it already, “I want the Legacy lease deal.”

Misconception #10: We are only getting 390, 270, or X parking spaces

Reality: The ramp is projected to have 525 spaces.  All of the current spaces on the surface lot we are building on will be replaced with spaces in the ramp.  While the net increase in spaces will be about 390 (525 – 135 current surface parking spaces), the total number of spaces is 525.

So what was the misconception?

Misconception #11: We are not building enough spaces because we are allowing a developer to build on top of our ramp

Reality: We are building enough spaces to satisfy projected demand for the next decade.  Regardless of whether something is built on top of our ramp or not, we would not build any higher than we are building our ramp.  We also cannot go any farther horizontally.  Even if there was no private development, we would not build the ramp any larger or higher.

We are not building enough spaces for the value we are getting. But that has nothing to do with the size of the lot or the height of the ramp, it has to do with this NOT being the right plan. We should be getting 600 Public Parking spots for around $13-15 million. Instead we are getting 2/3rds that for $20 million. Having this partnership with a private developer is actually detrimental to our parking needs downtown. We would be better off and get more value and space building the ramp on our own. The city’s job, especially with an enterprise fund (sewer/water/parking) is to provide a service from a fee/tax. It is not the responsibility of an enterprise fund to subsidize private economic development. One of the reasons a partnership like this has probably never been done before, because it simply isn’t a good deal for the taxpayers.

Misconception #12: We are paying twice the national average for this parking ramp

Reality: The price for this ramp is approximately $26,000 per space using the standard construction cost only number.  The national median cost of a parking ramp per space is $20,000.  The standard median parking ramp for purposes of comparison is a basic bare bones ramp.  Our cost is slightly more because we are adding features and amenities either by code requirement (fire suppression systems) or for user comfort and increased service levels (example: wider drive aisles and parking spaces).  The newspaper article that stated this ramp would cost twice the national median price was based on an apples-oranges comparison of our total project cost (including construction, site prep, financing, debt reserve, architectural, engineering, and other costs) to the national median cost which includes ONLY the construction cost.

When San Franciso and LA can build EARTHQUAKE proof parking ramps for cheaper than we can, you have to question the price tag. As I said above, it isn’t a misconception, it’s pretty obvious with all these extra soft costs, etc., we are subsidizing the building of the hotel AND building them a Cadillac parking ramp. With the mention of the fire suppression system my guess is that the hotel’s portion of the ramp will be enclosed and heated. Still waiting for them to spring this on us, of course, after the contract is approved.

Like I said, many of the councilors, the mayor and his staff are missing the big picture on this project. It’s too damn expensive, it doesn’t provide enough public parking and we are signing the contract with a person who is a major legal liability. Argue about foundations and investors all you want. The simple fact is we are getting HOSED on this deal.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert on the EC siding settlement

Greg goes into great detail explaining the settlement;

The recent events center settlement revealed that we received $485,004 in cash and forgiveness of bills owed to the contractors. The other $514,996 of the settlement was in the form of a write-down of the ‘contractor contingency’ which is a block of money that the owner (the City) allows the contractor (Mortenson) to access during construction to cover eventualities out of the control of the contractor (i.e. a subcontractor walks off the job, raw material prices spike, etc). At the end of the project, there was $1,524,402 left in the Contractor Contingency fund. Note this is OUR money (it never went to the contractor – it was in our bank account). At the end of the project, industry documents state, and in fact our contract states, that we retain that unused contingency. Now the city asserts it is not ‘our money’ because the contractor could access it. They assert that per the contract, if we were to find a ‘latent’ (hidden and not seen but NOT based on contractor negligence or fraud) defect within the 10 year statute of repose (time limit in South Dakota to find a defect that was hidden and go after the contractor) that they would have the right to access the contractor contingency fund to fix it.

Greg finishes up by saying this;

To be clear I have found no evidence of corruption or malfeasance, at best it was only an error in judgement/bad decision. It may not have even been that.

I disagree, I have felt there should be a Federal investigation into the entire EC building process. I also don’t agree it was an error in judgement. I think the mayor knew what was going on and purposely ignored it out of selfishness to get the project done on time and under budget, which will cost us more in the long run if extensive repairs need to be made.

Why do I think it wasn’t just a bad decision? Because most people in leadership who have integrity and ethics ADMIT to those bad decisions and apologize instead of continuing to lie. And the lies continue to pile up.

Greg did do a fantastic job of explaining the issue, and by NO means he is sugar coating the events.

As for the study that is supposed to happen, I get the feeling more and more that the city is going to have a tough time finding someone willing to point the finger at an internationally acclaimed contractor for bad work. And even if they do, there isn’t much we can go after Mortenson for. As Greg pointed out, it was clearly the adminstration’s fault for allowing the work to be done to begin with. The company that does the study will essentially be asking us to pay them for a conclusion that will put taxpayers on the hook for the repairs. Would you want that job?

I think a group of volunteer local contractors should be putting an advisory report together instead. I know, pie in the sky.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert posts timeline of siding issue on FB

As I pointed out on Thursday, it seems they new for a long time that the siding was not a good idea, but installed it anyway. Greg puts out a great time line of the events leading up to the settlement. (DOC: Events Center Timeline)

From Greg:

One of the biggest questions out of the Events Center metal panels issue is – what happened? I’m not sure we will ever know completely. However to try to add some clarity I have created a timeline of events. This timeline is based solely on public records and no inside knowledge or privileged information. As noted in the document it is believed to be accurate but some facts are not independently verified in other words there was only one source such as a statement by one of the players in a press release. All supporting source documents are publicly available. I think it answers some questions but it certainly raises more. In the end I don’t think it’s about beating people up or Monday morning quarter backing for the sake of second guessing, it’s about trying to learn from any mistakes so we can avoid them on the next big project.

UPDATE: Greg will be a guest on Patrick Lalley’s show on Monday, at 4:15. Oct 16, KSOO AM 1000.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Neitzert on SE Podcast

Greg talks about many topics including the stupidity of the 50% threshold of a council election.

Thank you to the Neitzert Family

Besides the Mayor and his wife, Greg and his wife Jennifer were the only elected city officials to donate to the Levitt Pavilion. I know the councilors don’t receive nearly enough money for the job they do, so it is always nice to see when they donate to local charities (and most of them do). Essentially giving something back to the community from the small salary they receive.

Thank You.

The donors; LevittShellDonorsVolunteers